Check out Phil Jones’ website and you’ll
see Jones is both an innovator and a
knowledgeable bass player. His designs and
approach to delivering sound have not only
caught the attention of musicians, but also
audiophiles from around the world. Like
other amplifier manufacturers, Jones has
designed a line of speakers and amps for the
“weight-conscious bassist,” and most recently,
he has added the D-600 to the line.
Weighing in at six pounds, it’s a 600-watt,
class-D amplifier that Jones describes as a
“connoisseur amp.” Jones has also planted
his flag on the neodymium landscape with
his Neo-Power series of cabinets. These
cabs, including the 8B model reviewed
here, combine portability with his unique
integration of 5" drivers.
The D-600 evolved from the smaller D-200
amplifier, and the 600’s preamp consists of
dual inputs, each accompanied by a 3-position
switch. This handy control provides
the option of matching the input sensitivity
to an instrument’s pickups (high or low
impedance), as well as a mute mode. The
EQ controls are simple and straightforward,
with six knobs set at useful frequency centers.
Jones believes these presets enhance the
fundamental tones of each string, as well
as the mids and highs. Secondary features
include a limiter, an auxiliary input for
play-along convenience, a headphone jack,
and a line-in to the power amp. The back
panel contains essentials like a DI, tuner
and preamp outs, effects send/return, and
two speakON outputs.
Strength in Numbers
In short, Jones believes that a cabinet consisting
of multiple 5" speakers provides a responsive
attack, and reproduces mid to high
frequencies with much more accuracy than
larger subwoofers. Moreover, the arrangement
of these mighty minis can cover as much
surface area as larger drivers, but in a tighter,
more efficient package. The Neo-Power 8B is
similar in size to many 2x12 cabinets, but the
surface area of its eight neodymium speakers
moves as much air as a typical 4x10.
For a neodymium speaker cabinet, the
Neo-Power 8B is not necessarily the lightest
or most portable in its class. So to resolve
this, Jones attached a telescopic handle on
the back, and mounted substantial wheels
to the bottom of the cabinet. This allows
the quality components of the 8B to be easily
transported from the car to the stage.
Mr. Jones and Me
To assess the clarity and responsiveness of
the Phil Jones rig, I used a spectrum of different
basses, including a 1964 Fender Jazz,
a Nash P-style bass, an Ansir Imperial Series
4-string, and a German upright (equipped
with a Fishman Full Circle pickup).
It took a bit of adjustment to acclimate
my ears to the Phil Jones rig. In place of
amplifiers and speakers that accentuate the
lows and low-mids, the D-600 and the 8B
cabinet provided a more balanced sound.
With the D-600 set flat, the tone had smooth
highs, even mids, and lows that did not dominate,
but instead supported each note.
What was most impressive was how effectively
the EQ enhanced each instrument.
The frequency centers made it easy for me to
quickly tailor the EQ to each bass. By slightly
boosting the hi bass and mid controls, I was
able to give the bridge pickup on the Jazz
bass a Jaco-style bark. Slightly boosting the lo
treble and hi treble knobs brought life back
to the aging flatwounds on the Nash bass.
The modern tone of the Ansir bass benefited
from a boost of the hi and lo bass controls,
turning it into a punchy, modern monster. I
also found the upright and its pickup to pair
nicely with this rig by slightly cutting the lo
bass control—just enough tweaking to bring
out the instrument’s natural character.
In addition, the limiter provided smooth
compression that tightened the lows and
added some extra punch. It was very effective
for slapping on the Jazz bass, and kept
the lows from howling on my upright.
Implementing the level control for the
onboard limiter was a great idea, as it allows
you to dial in just enough of the 3:1 optical
compressor to get the job done.
Overall, I found the D-600 and Neo-
Power 8B to be an ideal reference rig for
hearing the true tone of each instrument.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Excited to hear how well this newfound
clarity would work in a live setting, I took
the Phil Jones rig to a blues gig. Competing
with the drummer and guitarist in this
high-volume setting, the rig’s great characteristics
did not quite come through in the
overall mix, even when I pushed the amp to
its limits. Though the rig’s volume did not
quite hang on its own in this particular live
setting, mic’ing the cab and sending a signal
from the DI proved to be a good option
for sharing the Phil Jones sound with the
masses—a successful venture that pleased
my ears and also those of the soundman.
When Piranhas Attack!
Although the D-600 and Neo-Power 8B
rig seems best suited for medium- to lowervolume
applications, Phil Jones Bass also has
plenty of options for more volume-intensive
situations. Their M-500 amp contains 750
watts of MOSFET power, and the D-4000 is
a digital power amp that delivers 4600 watts
in one rack space. Their neo cabinets vary in
size from the 6B (six 5" speakers), up to the
mighty 21B (with 21 speakers). And for those
who prefer ceramic drivers, Phil Jones also
offers the Piranha line of cabinets, though they
are about 20 pounds heavier per enclosure.
The D-600 and Neo-Power 8B are nice
additions to the Phil Jones family and it’s
an ideal rig for the studio or medium- to
lower-volume gigs. Those who prefer bassheavy
tones may not fully appreciate the
balanced sound of the 8B cabinet, but its
responsive, transparent-sounding speakers
are unlike anything else on the market.
The D-600 is simple, portable, and
very versatile. Its superb EQ-voicing and
thoughtful features work well with a wide
variety of instruments and would please the
most discriminating gearhead. While it may
seem pricey, this amp is a highlight of Phil
Jones’ ingenuity and a symbol of evolution
in class-D amplification.